Women's Soccer Game of the Week preview: No. 16 USC at No. 4 Stanford

John McGillen / StanfordPhoto.com

Who: No. 16 USC at No. 4 Stanford

When: Thursday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks, with J.B. Long and Krista Blunk on the call.

The Pac-12 Networks’ Game of the Week is indeed the game of the week, as first-place Stanford welcomes second-place USC to The Farm hoping to clinch a share of the Pac-12 title.

The Story so Far: USC (12-4-1, 7-1-0 Pac-12)

All Keidane McAlpine does is win games. The current USC head honcho led Washington State to the NCAA tournament in each of his two seasons on the Palouse and guided the Cougs to a program-best second-place finish in the Pac-12 in 2013. Prior to his arrival in Los Angeles, USC had missed three straight NCAA tournaments and went a combined 21-33-5 in the last three years of Ali Khosroshahin’s tenure. In McAlpine’s first year at USC, the Trojans won 12 games and went to their first NCAA tournament since 2010.

Now in his second year in Troy, McAlpine has the Trojans in rarified air – a chance to at least get a share of their first conference crown since 1998 and second overall. A rigorous non-conference schedule that saw the Trojans play two top-5 teams and five top-25 squads overall (going 1-3-1 in those matches) paid off.  A 1-0 loss in Seattle is the only conference blemish for USC, which has won five straight by a combined score of 13-2. Their defense is clicking at the right time – the Trojans have shut out their last three opponents and are the only Pac-12 team to blank three consecutive conference opponents.

Fresh off a sweep of the mountain schools at home, beating Utah 1-0 and Colorado 3-0, USC now hits the road for its final three matches of the season – at Stanford, at Cal and at UCLA to round things out. That’s certainly not an easy slate, as the NorCal schools are both in the top-20 and their SoCal rivals can beat anybody, but the Trojans will have definitely earned their keep if they are able to move past or slide into a tie for first with the Cardinal.

The story So Far: Stanford (14-2-0, 8-0-0 Pac-12)

It’s pretty simple from here on out for the Cardinal – beat USC, and it has at least a share of the conference crown. Beat USC and draw with either UCLA and Cal, and the Card claims first all to its lonesome.

The Cardinal continued its spotless run through the Pac-12 with a pair of wins over Washington State and Washington, needing some overtime magic to down the Cougs on last Thursday’s Game of the Week. Super sub Averie Collins headed one in off a lofted corner kick from Haley Rosen in the 109th minute to allow the Cardinal to escape with a 2-1 victory in the Palouse. Stanford then backed that up with a dominant 3-0 triumph over Washington, outshooting the Dawgs 19-10 and conceding just three shots on goal to the Seattle side.

The jaunt up to the Pacific Northwest was Stanford’s last trip away from The Farm in the regular season, as the Cardinal concludes the campaign with three straight at home. It might also be the team’s last trip until December, as the Cardinal is the only team west of the Mississippi ranked in the top 10 and is No. 5 in RPI. Keep on winning, and the Cardinal should keep on hosting.

Three Players to Watch: USC

  1. #18 Kayla Mills (Forward, Junior)  At midseason, TopDrawer Soccer considered Mills the No. 24 player in the nation. She might not have the gaudiest numbers (two goals and three assists for seven points), but she’s dangerous on both sides of the pitch, having racked up Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors earlier this season despite being listed as a forward on the roster.
  2. #3 Morgan Andrews (Midfielder, Junior)  Andrews was also on the TopDrawer Soccer midseason top 100 list, checking in at No. 41. Andrews leads the team with five goals and 14 points and is tied for second with four assists, and she scored twice in the 3-0 win over Colorado on Sunday.
  3. #1 Sammy Jo Prudhomme (Goalkeeper, Redshirt Junior)  The only keeper to play in net for the Trojans all season, Prudhomme is second in the Pac-12 with a miniscule 0.58 goals against average and hasn’t conceded a goal in 275 minutes. #Stalwart.

Three Players to Watch: Stanford

  1. #10 Haley Rosen (Forward, Redshirt Senior)  The reigning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week produced five points during the weekend trip to the Washington schools, scoring and distributing the game-winning assist in double overtime against Washington State ball and then providing an insurance goal against the Dawgs. After amassing 16 points in her first three playing seasons on The Farm, Rosen has 14 points (five goals, four assists) already this year.
  2. #1 Jane Campbell (Goalkeeper, Junior) – The reigning Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week conceded just one goal in nearly 200 minutes of action last weekend and notched six saves. The clean sheet against Washington was her sixth shutout of the season and she is right behind Prudhomme for third in the Pac-12 in goals against average (0.67).
  3. #12 Kyra Carusa (Forward, Redshirt Freshman) – The San Diego product has been really solid in conference play, scoring all four of her goals since the calendar turned to the Pac-12 season. She was a major scorer in high school (58 goals and 50 assists in three varsity campaigns) and we’re seeing some of that come to fruition on The Farm.

Three Notes to Know

  1. Pursuit of perfection in the Pac  You might think it’d be rare to see a team go undefeated in conference play, but 13 teams have achieved that feat in the 21-year history of Pac-12-sponsored women’s soccer, and nine of those teams didn’t even hang a draw on the ledger. In fact, the last eight Pac-12 champions have not dropped a conference contest, and Stanford has a chance to make it nine a row.
  2. Getting up shots – USC is 10-0-1 when it attempts at least 20 shots in a match this season and 2-4 when it doesn’t (in one of those non-20-shot wins, USC had 19; I see a stat like that and my instinct is to start bombing away as soon as I cross midfield). Overall, USC is second in the Pac-12 with 304 shots on the season (nearly 18 per game), trailing only Stanford’s 311 cracks at cage.
  3. Immediate results from freshman class – How about this for a quick return on your investment – all five of Stanford’s true-freshman field players (Michelle Xiao, Tegan McGrady, Jordan DiBiasi, Alana Cook and Averie Collins) have scored at least one game-winning goal this year. Overall, the five frosh have combined for 12 goals, seven of the game-winning variety.
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